I Took the Road

not taken today. Well, technically speaking it was the trail not taken, but even prose writers are allowed poetic license when it comes to producing a headline.

You’d think that after hiking Pt Defiance Park’s trails for over a year I’d know all the trails by now. You’d be wrong. I proved that again today when I managed to take an unmarked trail that I haven’t taken before and somehow managed to get myself lost. Maybe not lost
, but certainly disoriented.

My first reaction when I realized I no longer had a clue where I was, or even a clear idea of how to retrace my route, was a little burst of sweat, which might have been masked by the fact that I was already sweating rather profusely from walking three miles with a dog that always insists on pulling on the leash no matter how fast I go. That was followed by a single explicative. “Shit.”

There’s always something disconcerting about being lost, particularly for someone like myself who prides himself on his hiking skills. After all, I taught map reading in the Army, managed not to get lost in the jungles of Vietnam, and have spent much of the last forty years hiking the woods of the Northwest, usually without a map.

If it hadn’t been so overcast today and the forest hadn’t been so thick, I might at least have been able to figure out what direction I was going by noting the location of the sun. Failing that, though, I was left with little idea of which branch of the trail to take.

The wisest choice would probably have been to retrace my route, which I probably could have managed to do with Skye’s help. He probably knew exactly where we were all the time, and, if he hadn’t been so concerned with protecting me from all the other dogs using our trails, he might even have shown me the way home.

Generally too stubborn to given in to the the wisest idea, I pushed on, determined to see where this trail would take me. Unfortunately it took me to yet another set of branching trails. By now I’d run into a couple of walkers, and could have asked for directions, or at least asked if they knew what direction I was headed in, but being a man I decided to push on in the direction I was headed and figure it out by myself.

A couple of miles later I found out exactly where it was headed, the far side of the park from home. When I hit the Puget Sound, I decided it was time to turn back since I hadn’t brought my kayak with me. Once I finally knew where I was, though it was relatively easy to find my way home.

I finally got home about an hour later and quite a bit more tired than usual. I’m sure I learned something from this experience, though it’s unclear exactly what that might be. Hopefully the extra miles at least made me a little stronger and better able to cope with getting lost the next time.

2 thoughts on “I Took the Road”

  1. Well I don’t have all the experience you have, but I commisserate with that little feeling of panic. Even though like you said, there’s usually an easy way out. For some reason though, at that point, you focus on the “lost” and not the sensible way out. But after years of hiking I’d have to say I’m a little better than I was at focusing on my mantra in such situations: one step at a time.

  2. Fortunately htere are enough trails on the local trails to keep me busy for a few years yet and the local trails society is always creating new ones. I say fortunately because no matter where you are on one of htose trails if you get lost, as I did earlier this summer, all you have to do is walk consistently downhill and you will eventually hit an in use road (as opposed to the abandoned mining/looging roads the area is rife with). In my case I lost about a 1000 feet more elevation than I needed to and came out almost hafway down the hill from Rossland to Trail (6 miles and 2000ft below Rossland)

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